In this edition of the Rational Faiths podcast Benjamin Knoll interviews Michael Ferguson on the neuroscience of religious experience. We cover a variety of topics including:

  • A brief overview of Michael’s background with the fascinating field of brain science.
  • A brief summary of some recent research on what is going on in our bodies when people “feel the Spirit.”
  • Philosophical framings of naturalism, materialism, dualism, and monism.
  • The foundations of Mormonism and how research in neuroscience may help us understand the Joseph Smith story, including the First Vision and the translation of the Book of Mormon.
  • The implications for this research for the “mechanics” of spiritual experience and what we can learn from it.

At various points Benjamin plays the critic and asks whether this research means that all spiritual experiences are ultimately nothing more than neurons knocking into each other in our brains. Michael’s answers are fascinating.




Benjamin Knoll was an active PermaBlogger at Rational Faiths from 2015-2020. At the time, he was a political science professor at a liberal arts college in central Kentucky. He's since changed careers and now works in the private sector, running business survey research projects. Born and raised a seventh-generation Mormon (on his mother's side), he is now an active Episcopalian who earned a Diploma in Anglican Studies from Bexley-Seabury Seminary in 2022. Indeed, we may say that he follows that admonition of Joseph Smith—that we should "embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same."

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